Who Am I?

Weekend Update 06-18-2011

Posted: June 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | 1 Comment »

Through a Glass, Darkly. It’s a story about growing up with a parent who is mentally ill. One line in particular grabbed my attention. “And I didn’t talk about my family life with anyone.” Read the article. Think about it.

GOP belief in utterly debunked economic voodoo has become their official religion. Sadly, a significant portion of the American people clearly can’t do basic math and believe in magic — all evidence to the contrary aside.

We don’t have a Medicare problem; we have a health care cost problem. Surely the second graph (comparing the rise in private health care costs vs. the rise in the cost of Medicare) makes that abundantly clear in a graphic even the densest person can comprehend? Medicare saves money. We should be expanding it, not proposing plans to cut it.

The British citizens fear our health system. Their politicians reassure them that they would never inflict such a monstrosity on them. Of course, Americans are so insular, they probably won’t even notice as “American-style” becomes even more of an epithet abroad.

Republicans continue their war on poor women and children in proposed cuts to WIC. Particularly as a poor teen parent, I remember what a lifesaver WIC was.

In the US, food kills one person every two hours.

Sadly, many middle-class Americans continue to vote for a party engaged in open class warfare against them. It’s irrational, but it’s largely a mistake to expect people to behave rationally. Most of the time we don’t. And that’s true of all of us, myself included.

This editorial on the recent Republican “debate almost makes me wish I had watched it. Nah, not really, but I did enjoy the editorial.

We are a country who has become second-best, even in the quality of our psychopaths.

Finally, the truth about the economy in 2 1/2 minutes.

Love of Enemies

Posted: June 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Faith | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Love of Enemies

Like many, I was disturbed by the gleeful celebration of so many Americans at the death of Osama bin Laden. Was his death necessary? Perhaps. Fortunately, I was not the one who had to make that decision or act upon it. But as Christians, we worship the God of life who joined his nature to ours that we might live. Our God was betrayed, mocked, tortured, unjustly convicted, and executed while forgiving all of those who wronged him.

And he commands us to do the same.

Love of enemies is a hard thing. I’m not particularly good at it. I don’t feel any particular sorrow at bin Laden’s demise.

But …

I recognize that my God does.

And at least in some small measure, I long to be like him.

I think the best thing I heard on the topic was a podcast by Fr. Stephen Freeman, The Hard Reality of the Kingdom of God. It’s only about ten minutes long. I invite everyone to pause a few moments and listen to it. It’s well worth the time.

Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 35

Posted: June 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Fourth Century) 35

74.  The senses belong to a single family but are divided into five individual types. Through the apprehensive force particular to each individual type, the deluded soul is persuaded to desire the corresponding sensible objects instead of God. Hence the man of intelligence will choose to die voluntarily according to the flesh before the advent of that death which comes whether he likes it or not; and to this end he will completely sever his inner disposition from the senses.

I find this text intriguing. Through our senses we come to desire the things we experience through them over God. To me, at least, there is a sense of timelessness in this quote. We are embodied beings created to turn our being toward God. Instead, our perceiving, receptive mind which both interprets the input of our sense and is our vehicle for experiencing God is overwhelmed, distracted, and eventually consumed by the sensory input it receives. We have all followed that course to one degree or another. This lies close to the heart of our universal fall. We are consumed by all that rushes at us through our senses rather than ruling over them in the constant experience or perception of God.

Response to Crisis

Posted: June 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Personal | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Response to Crisis

In the wake of my wife’s health crisis, I’ve pondered the various ways we tend to respond in high pressure, frightening, and even overwhelming situations. When people tell my wife or me they are impressed by how well I juggled everything, I confess I’m a little bemused. From my perspective, I simply did what was necessary to take care of my family, help my wife recover, and give her peace of mind as she did so. Nothing I did feels particularly remarkable to me. I tend to think that anyone would have done the same.

But then I realize that I have been shaped and formed to handle crises. In some ways my childhood can mapped from crisis to crisis with routine crisis management in between. I am no more immune to being overwhelmed than anyone, but perhaps my threshold is higher than that of many people. Such things are hard for me to judge. I do know that in crisis situations, in some sense everything seems to slow down as I begin to select options and sort what must be done from what can wait.

In a lot of ways, it’s the normal ebb and flow of life, not the crisis peaks and valleys, that I’m sometimes ill-equipped to handle. But I’m learning and I muddle through as best I can.

My wife is not yet back to one hundred percent, but she’s well on her to full recovery. The worst is well behind us now — a bad memory. I appreciate the thoughts and prayers of those of you who offered them. Thanks. I think I’m ready to jump back into blogging.


Weekend Update 06-11-2011

Posted: June 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 06-11-2011

As good an explanation as any I’ve seen for why Washington isn’t doing a thing about jobs.

She texted. We kicked her out. And then she left Alamo Drafthouse the gift of a wonderful advertisement in the form of a voicemail! As the week progressed, this one seemed to go viral — as well it should. Tim League responds to the widespread attention.

This church sign war is hilarious. I judge it a clear win for the Catholics.

Wednesday was World IPv6 Day and things went pretty smoothly.

Vouchercare Is Not Medicare. Indeed, the GOP’s attack on Medicare looks to me like a carefully designed lie. (Hardly surprising from the party who made political gains last year in large part due to Politifact’s 2010 Lie of the Year.) And it was a multi-layered lie. First, it’s a blatant lie that those of us younger than 55 would ever receive anything vaguely like the benefits provided by Medicare. That lie has been debunked so thoroughly from so many sources, I’m surprised Republicans are still buying it. But the more subtle lie was that those who are 55 and older would get to keep the Medicare plan they currently have. That was a cynical attempt by the GOP to retain the support of senior voters on whom they depend, but it failed on two levels. Apparently, none of the Republican politicians grasped the fact that most people, seniors included, don’t just care about themselves. Most people care about their brothers, sisters, children, nephews, nieces, and grandchildren. In fact, it’s my experience that seniors, if anything, care more deeply about the welfare of their family. In something as critical as this, it was and is delusional for the GOP to think that self-interest would win the day. However, the lie goes deeper than that and seniors, as one of the more politically savvy segments of our population, saw right through that lie as well. The promise that they would keep the benefits they were currently receiving was always an empty promise. As the two-tier system developed, with more and more Americans thrown into poverty as they age (the way they were before Medicare) continuing to provide “gold-plated” benefits to some and not to others would be politically unsustainable. That’s especially true since those negatively impacted will have paid into the existing Medicare for decades for benefits they won’t receive. Republicans, despite frequent appearance to the contrary, are not so stupid that they don’t grasp that reality. Fortunately, our seniors aren’t that stupid either. At this juncture, it amazes that there are still enough people in our country willing to vote for Republicans that it remains a viable political party. But then, I’m told I constantly over-estimate people. I guess it’s true. The plan seems like a certain loser and an albatross around Republicans’ necks.

The gluten-free girl was in Austin for a conference and blogged a report! Cool beans.

When you deny the benefit of “going through the motions” in the practice of our faith, you deny our bodies and physical nature. Sometimes, it’s those motions which keep us moving. Moreover, how can we say we do anything that doesn’t involve our bodies? Preston Yancey captures that in locomotion.

The cost of cancer treatments put them out of reach of many. Not that there’s anything wrong with our health care system …

Of course, the noisy tea baggers don’t really care about the deficit or they would care about very easy to understand graphs like these.

Devil’s Ink is modern day version of Screwtape. I liked the post here on a video of Ryan refusing a Bible.

This poll is interesting. I’m not convinced that anyone in Washington will pay attention, but it is interesting. So far our politicians have seemed intent on repeating the mistakes of the past. Personally, I think any potential depression will probably look more like the Long Depression than the Great Depression, but the indications seem pretty clear that we remain at risk of some sort of depression.

So. Turkey, Chile, and Mexico do have lower total taxes as a share of GDP than we do, but that’s about it out of major developed countries. It looks good until you add in total health care expenditures. Suddenly, we don’t look so great after all. But instead of sharing the burden across society, we let it crush those who get seriously ill. And who among us believes we will go our whole lives without anyone in our family getting seriously ill?

So, on the 10th anniversary of the Bush tax cuts, what have they achieved? 38% of the benefit went to the top 1%, while the top 20% received 65% of the benefits from the tax cut. The worst decade of job growth since WWII. Income stagnation for all but the wealthiest Americans, who saw their income and wealth soar. Did they create a smaller government? No. We entered two wars, added Medicare Part D, and government spending as a share of GDP grew, essentially on credit. (Of course, that growth as share of GDP was immensely helped by the anemic growth in the GDP during the years of the Bush tax cuts.) I don’t think a “smaller government” is any sort of benefit in a generic sense. (What did you shrink and what impact did that have?) But it was one of Bush’s own measures and claims for his tax cuts and it obviously failed. So by Bush’s own measures, his tax cuts were a dismal failure. They failed every publicly voiced measure. Of course, if his unvoiced measures were really about increasing the concentration of wealth (and concomitant power) of his rich family, friends, and acquaintances then he succeeded wildly. So was he lying about his goals or was he merely inept? Those seem to be the two options available. Of course, they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Weekend Update 06-04-2011

Posted: June 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | 2 Comments »

Rigamortis: A Zombie Love Story. It’s not another Dr. Horrible, but it is fun. All three parts are posted.

Linus Torvalds on Linux 3.0-rc1. Pretty cool. And I’ve been actively using Linux at work and home for fifteen of those twenty years. Doesn’t seem that long somehow.

The Truth about the American Economy. An excerpt from Robert Reich’s testimony. Well worth reading. Ironically, these policies intended to benefit the wealthiest hurt them as well. They end up with a larger piece of a smaller pie and as the purchasing power of most Americans implode, they are unable to spend enough to compensate and maintain the economy on which their wealth largely depends.

Yes. We need to be talking about ways to solve our high rate of unemployment — and embrace unorthodox ideas, modern versions of the sorts of things that actually worked during the Great Depression. And yes, Republicans are worse than useless on the issue of job creation and unemployment. They are and will continue to be deliberate obstacles to any and every effort. So what? We should all join them on the sidelines wringing our hands in learned helplessness? Bah. We need to face the problem and deal with it.

Dang those pesky facts! And here, Republicans can’t handle the truth that taxes were higher under Reagan than they are currently under Obama. We don’t have a spending problem. We have a revenue problem.

Oprah has a pretty good article on a gluten free diet. Go figure.

Wow. Senate Republicans block aid to homeless veterans? They really are shameless.

1937 in 2011? Interesting thoughts. Interesting parallels.

The Celiac Teen posted a great account of her trip to a food blogging conference, including a scary layover in nearby (to me) Dallas. I guess I take tornado warnings and dramatic weather for granted. Even if you aren’t a celiac, take a moment to read it.

Hmmm. If the White House garden grew subsidized crops. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

And a study confirms that oats that aren’t certified gluten-free are heavily contaminated — to the tune of 88% if samples.

Wow, so the years of huge real median family income growth in the US were the years of financial repression? Who knew? Can someone come “financially repress” me? (Why do I feel like Brer Rabbit?) I love his last line. “I have seen the past, and it worked.”

David, Larabar’s first employee. Interesting, especially since Larabars have been so important to my family. Youngest daughter survived her 8th grade choir trip to Six Flags mostly on Larabars.

Making sense of a visible quantum object. Wow! Just … wow!

The choice to stop the American automobile industry from unraveling was the right one.

Which gospel was written first? It’s “common knowledge” today that Mark was written first, but why do people believe that’s the case? My thoughts are in the comments.

The prayer of silence. I like Metropolitan Jonah and recommend this.

Maine’s rollback of child labor laws is not as bad as originally proposed. That’s supposed to be good, right?

Ryancare vs. Obamacare. For those incapable of doing basic math.

The future of Medicare is … Medicare. Duh.

Saturday Evening Blog Post – May Edition

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Misc | Comments Off on Saturday Evening Blog Post – May Edition

In this month’s edition of the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther, I cheated and posted a link to an April post. But you still read and even contribute to the list.